Interview with the director

Interview with the director

The Barbican’s guide for May 2015 features an interview with director John La Bouchardière:

‘the weirdness suddenly – perhaps disturbingly – seems to make more sense’

John La Bouchardiere interview for Betrayal: a polyphonic crime drama

Betrayal: a polyphonic crime drama

A site-specific piece of immersive theatre is bringing Renaissance music to a dark corner of contemporary London. We spoke to director John La Bouchardière ahead of its world premiere at Village Underground.

‘Betrayal’ is based on the work of the 16th-century composer Carlo Gesualdo. What initially drew you to his music?

In music – perhaps in everything – I am most fascinated by harmony, and I have always been particularly thrilled by the kind of chromaticism that takes one by surprise. Gesualdo was so far ahead of his time that it took Wagner to catch him up. His music is breathtaking but can seem a little odd. By dramatising it, however, one starts to think of it through a troubled mind, and the weirdness suddenly – perhaps disturbingly – seems to make more sense.

Gesualdo’s mature work falls into two categories: accusatory madrigals and penitent motets. I have arranged a selection of them to create a narrative structure that functions a bit like that of a television crime drama.

You’ve collaborated with I Fagiolini and Robert Hollingworth before, on ‘The Full Monteverdi’. How do you hope they will impact on the piece?

Creating The Full Monteverdi was a wonderfully collaborative experience, and I have been itching to build on what we discovered. It is hard to imagine making Betrayal without them: the musical and vocal expertise required, the faith to learn it by heart, the courage to dramatise it, and the dedication to make such a project actually happen – that mixture of qualities is pretty much unique.

The piece sets out to fuse singing and contemporary dance. How will this be achieved?

Making a new piece from old or ‘unstageable’ material pushes one to create a fresh mixture of art forms. Contemporary dance will feature strongly throughout Betrayal, not as a mere sideshow between bits of singing, but as a narrative and expressive tool. The singers and dancers are partners in the project, using the music and text to devise the details of the piece.

How does the urban setting of Village Underground impact upon your creative process, and why have you chosen to set Renaissance music within it?

The music came first. Once I had the idea of a crime drama, I wanted to find a space where bad things might conceivably have happened. Village Underground was an abandoned warehouse, and being an actual space, is not something we dreamt up and built out of plywood. Placing High Renaissance art within it represents my belief that such music can hold its own in a gritty urban reality.

What can the audience expect?

This is an immersive experience, much like The Full Monteverdi, in that the audience is placed inside the piece, the action and the music itself. It is also interactive, with the audience on its feet and free to choose which stories to follow.

What are you personally most looking forward to in the process?

There is a moment in any risky creative process, when it starts to look like a crazy idea might actually work. I am definitely looking forward to that.

Betrayal: a polyphonic crime drama
I Fagiolini
13–15 May, Village Underground

For information about these and other performances, please click here.

To visit John’s website, click here.

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This blog accompanies Betrayal: a polyphonic crime drama, a music and dance-theatre project inspired by the life and works of Carlo Gesualdo with shows in London, Cambridge and Salisbury May/June 2015. More information here and via the links on the left.